Related: Celebration, Sisters of Notre Dame, Social Justice Issues, Trinity, Women

Founders Day: Behold the Work of this Immigrant Woman!


Sisters of Notre Dame at Trinity(Sisters of Notre Dame in front of the newly restored portrait of Trinity Founder Sister Julia McGroarty, SND)
(Back row left to right:  Sisters Kristin Matthes, Camilla Burns, Seton Cunneen, Ann Howard, Mary Johnson)

(Front Row left to right:  Sisters Mary Hayes, Ann Gormley, Cristina Garces)

Founders Day Address at the Dedication of the Portrait of Sr. Julia McGroarty by

Sister Mary Johnson, SND, Distingished Professor of Sociology and Religious Studies

(I am pleased to turn over this blog to Sr. Mary Johnson to publish the remarkable talk she gave today…)

Every Founders Day gives us inspiration and hope. But this year’s celebration is set against a particularly difficult backdrop—vicious anti-immigrant sentiment and actions in parts of our country, even in the highest quarters of our government.

But, as we look more deeply into the life of our founder we find that a particular facet of her identity contains even more blessings for us in 2017. Our founder gives us even greater hope and inspiration to meet the challenges which our society sets before us today.

Why? Because our founder, Sr. Julia McGroarty, was an immigrant herself. She was born in Ireland, In County Donegal.  Ireland is a beautiful country; it is small but mighty. Its emigrants circle the earth and have helped to build the world.

And look what this immigrant woman built for us.  Julia built Main Hall; she built Trinity.  Look around you today as we gather in the Well. She built big and she built beautiful and she built to last. She is like so many of her generation of immigrants who built enduring institutions—families, churches, schools, colleges, clinics and hospitals. And look within and outside the doors of Trinity to see which institutions are newly built by the minds and hands of immigrants today. And look at the institutions of today which are being sustained by immigrants, along with the children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren of immigrants, so that the mission of those institutions might also endure.

This European immigrant, Trinity’s founder, left a lasting legacy that now opens its doors to the newest wave of immigrants to the United States, from Latin America, Africa and Asia. It is from those continents that our newest Trinity students come. And included in those students at Trinity are several international Catholic sisters from around the world.  They are joined by so many other students who were born in our country and who desire to work with their fellow students to build a more just and peaceful nation and world.

We know that there are over 4,000 sisters in the U.S today who come from six continents. We do not know how many international sisters were in this country in Julia’s time, but we know Julia. And we know that we are all called to continue to walk in the footsteps of our immigrant founder, to have big dreams and beautiful visions, and to work hard to make them real so that they will endure.

Julia must be delighted to see us today and know that her dreams and visions have been passed on to succeeding generations, and to each one of us.

Sr. Mary Johnson speaks on Founders DaySr. Mary Johnson delivers her talk on Founders Day as the SNDs listen.

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Patricia A. McGuire, President, Trinity, 125 Michigan Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20017
Phone: 202.884.9050   Email: